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samhain, ancestor altars, and liminal spaces

Fall has always been my favorite season. October, my favorite month. Halloween, my favorite week. And though I love me a Reese’s cup, a decorative gourd, and a good costume, it wasn’t that.

It was, and is, the energy. The witchiness of it. There’s something electric in the air.

And it’s no wonder that cultures throughout history and across the globe have celebrated this very particular moment of the year. Halloween. Dia de Los Muertos. All Saints Day. Samhain.

People who know about these things say it’s the time of the year when the veils between the worlds are the thinnest. Boundaries dissolve. A magical time that reveals, and confronts us with, life and death, light and dark, illumination and shadow. The play between the two. That liminal space. A portal to spiritual worlds. 

As I’ve been researching this time of year, wondering why I’ve been so enamored with it ever since I can remember, I’ve stumbled across the pagan celebration Samhain. And wow, does this resonate with me.

Sometimes known as the witch’s new year, Samhain is rooted in an ancient Celtic spiritual tradition. Samhain (pronounced “sow-win”) is celebrated from October 31 at sundown to November 1 at sundown, to welcome in the harvest and usher in the dark half of the year.

Celtic life revolved around the concept of dark and light. At Samhain, the dark half of the year commences. A truly magical time. As we celebrate the harvest and abundance, leaves fall and crumple, and nature reminds us that death is just around the corner, part of the cycle. Death and rebirth.

Days become shorter. The light dims. Darkness wraps us up in its deep, dreamy blanket. Darkness born of light. Light born of darkness. Inseparable. Interdependent.

Darkness, fertile with 'all potential', offers us an opportunity to rest, reflect on the past, dream of the future, restore ourselves for what us to come. The seeds we sow within ourselves during this dark phase will bloom in their season. 

And it is said that the barriers between the physical world and the spirit world break down during Samhain. The veils between the worlds are at their thinnest now. Boundaries dissolve and all is laid bare. It is time to honor and offer hospitality to, our ancestors.

A liminal time, Samhain hinges between polarities - light and dark, warmth and cold, life and death - and in this way, acts as a portal to spiritual worlds, bringing communication, initiation, travel, and contact.

And the fact that this Samhain coincides with a big, beautiful, full blue moon - pure magic.


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